“But we need not accept Fate’s determination as final, I am sure! There is a good God, as you say, madam. This child must have food, and—”
At the moment Bess rushed in carrying the paste-board box containing the remains of their lunch. “Here!” she cried, dramatically. “Give the poor little fellow this.”
“Oh, little ladies!” responded the woman, “have a care. You will have need of this food yourselves.”
“No, no!” cried Bess, the impetuous. “We are stuffed to repletion. Aren’t we, Nan?”
“We have certainly eaten much more recently than madam and the little one,” agreed Nan, heartily.
The woman opened the box. The child sat up with a crow of delight. The mother gave him one of the stale crullers, and he began gnawing on it with all the gusto of a hungry dog on a bone.
“Take something yourself, madam,” commanded Nan. “And more for the little fellow.”
“Let ’em have it all, Nan,” whispered the impulsive Bess. “Goodness! we can get on somehow.”
But Nan was more observant than her chum. There were other children in the car besides this little fellow. In fact, in the seat but one behind the French woman and her baby, a girl of six or seven years was clinging to the seat-back and staring with hungry eyes at the broken food in the box.
“Gracious!” gasped Bess, seeing this little one when Nan had nudged her and pointed. “Gracious! that’s the picture of Famine, herself.”
She seized one of the greasy little pies and thrust it into the child’s hands. The latter began devouring it eagerly. Bess saw other hungry mouths open and eager hands outstretched.
“Oh, Nan!” she almost sobbed. “We’ve got to give them all some. All the poor little children!”
Her chum did not try to curb Bess Harley’s generosity. There was not much of the food left, so there was no danger of over-feeding any of the small children who shared in the generosity of the chums. But when the last crumb was gone they found the conductor at their elbows.
“Well, girls!” he exclaimed grimly. “Now you’ve done it, haven’t you?”
“Done what, sir?” asked Bess, rather startled.
“You’ve given away all your own lunch. What did I tell you? I warned you to take care of it.”
“Oh, sir!” cried Nan. “We couldn’t have eaten it, knowing that these little folks were so hungry.”
“No, indeed!” agreed Bess.
“If you had remained in your own car,” the conductor said, “you would have known nothing about these poor kiddies.”
“Well, I’m glad we did find out about ’em before we ate our lunch all up,” declared Nan.
“Why, I’d like to know, Miss?” asked the man.
“It would have lain heavily on our consciences—”
“And surely injured our digestions,” giggled Bess. “That pie was something awful.”
“Well, it’s all gone now, and you have nothing.”